June 23rd, 2010 at 12:12pm
More autoworkers strike in China. General Motors announced it will create a new regional organization in South America. The U.S. and German governments decide whether or not to increase the blend of ethanol in gasoline. All that and more, plus John answers your questions about Ford and the Honda CR-Z in “You Said It!”
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
It’s Wednesday, June 23, 2010 and here’s the news.
MORE STRIKES IN CHINA
Uh-oh, here’s something that’s getting to be quite common. The Wall Street Journal reports that Toyota is idling a plant in China (subscription required) due to yet another strike at a Denso factory that makes fuel injectors. Denso already gave its workers a raise in April, but they want more. And Bloomberg reports that Honda had to close two of its plants for the same reason: striking workers at a supplier company that want more money. And here’s where it gets even more interesting. BMW faces a labor dispute at one of its biggest dealership groups in China. Workers at one of those dealerships walked off the job, because, you guessed it, they want more money.
COMPENSATING THE BIG BOYS
Speaking of getting more money, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn got $9.5 million in compensation for last year. That compares to the $9 million that GM is paying its chairman, Ed Whitacre; the $6.5 million that Fiat is paying Sergio Marchionne; and the $5.5 million that Daimler paid Dieter Zetsche. Oh, and by the way, Ghosn also gets another $1.6 million in compensation as CEO of Renault.
GM RETURNS TO REGIONAL STRUCTURE
GM announced it will create a new regional organization in South America. Called GM South America, the unit will be run by Jaime Ardila, who is currently the president and general manager of GM Mercosur, and he will report directly to company chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre. The company already has product design and engineering capabilities in South America, which will continue to develop vehicles specifically for that market. I think GM made a mistake creating one unit for its international operations and I believe that the company will go back to its original structure when there were separate operations for its different regions.
GERMANY DOUBLES ETHANOL BLEND
A member of the German government says the country will double the amount of ethanol it puts in gasoline. According to Bloomberg, the amount will be increased from a 5 percent blend to 10 percent by the end of the year. Biofuels only make up 5 percent of Germany’s total transportation fuels. And the use of fuel made from plants has dropped because the government eliminated tax-breaks for consumers.
EPA POSTPONES E-15 DECISION
In related news, the EPA has once again delayed its decision as to whether it will allow the ethanol blend in the U.S. to increase from a 10 percent to 15 percent blend. According to Edmund’s Green Car Advisor, the agency was supposed to make a decision this month but says it won’t have one until at least September. The EPA is waiting on tests being done by the Energy department that want to make sure increasing the blend won’t harm engines built after 2007. But the agency says everything so far “looks good.”
GM USES LASER BRAZING (subscription required)
Fit and finish is a big part of vehicle quality. Buyers don’t want to see misaligned trim or gaping panel gaps on their new $35,000 baby. To help boost the quality of its vehicle-body surfaces, Ward’s reports that General Motors is making more extensive use of a technology called laser brazing. The company is using this advanced welding process on the new Cadillac CTS Coupe. Laser brazing eliminates the “ditch” that forms when two surfaces are joined together. The two-door Caddy uses the process along its roof and across its decklid where a single stamping would not have been possible because of the depth of the draw. This technology also streamlines the painting process. As you’d expect, one obstacle to the more wide-spread use of laser brazing is cost. It’s more expensive than traditional spot-welding.
ELECTRONIC LICENSE PLATES
This story comes to us from Autoblog, courtesy of NBC San Diego. It seems that California lawmakers are desperate to plug the state’s $19 billion budget deficit and are willing to try just about anything. One proposed way to generate more revenue is to introduce digital license plates. Apparently the stamped pieces of metal we’ve been using for more than a century just aren’t good enough anymore. The idea here is that the plates could display a digital message whenever a vehicle is stopped for more than four seconds. In emergencies they could broadcast Amber Alerts or other traffic information. Yep, this is just what we need. If Americans weren’t distracted enough already, we need them reading license plate advertisements when they’re behind the wheel. What will they think on next?
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
And now it’s time for some of your feedback.
First off, I owe an apology to Pedro Fernandez who wrote in last week about Ford building the Fusion in Mexico. I said I had to correct him, that the Fusion was going to be built in Michigan. Wrong. The new Focus will be built in Michigan. The Fusion will be built in Mexico like it has all along.
Another correction. We ran a story from IHS Global Insight saying car sales in Canada were down in the last two months. That prompted Peter Saarniit to write in and say “wrong!” Sure enough, Ward’s sales tally shows that sales in Canada are up for the last three months and are up nearly 7 percent for the year.
EAB wrote in to ask, “Ok, what’s the point of the new Honda CR-Z? Its performance and economy stats are not all that much higher than a straight-up gasser, and the hybrid drivetrain doesn’t provide any more performance. In fact, I would guess if they took weight out of the car that supports all of the gee-whiz stuff as well as the hybrid drivetrain, it probably would perform the same as it does with the toys and hybrid drivetrain.”
EAB, I think you have something there. If you compare the Honda CR-Z to the Honda Fit, which is not a hybrid, you’ll see they have the same power-to-weight ratio of 21 pounds per horsepower. The EPA rates the Fit at 29 MPGs, but says most people will get 32 MPGs. The CR-Z is rated at a combined 33 MPGs with the manual transmission. So, with no hybrid technology and even though it’s a bigger car, the Fit almost matches the CR-Z in fuel economy.
And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.